World Heroes (ワールドヒーローズ Wārudo Hīrōzu?) is a series of fighting games created by ADK originally created for the Neo Geo MVS arcade cabinets with the assistance of SNK, though some of the games in the series were also ported to the Neo Geo AES and Neo-Geo CD platforms, as well as some non-SNK platforms such as the Super NES and the Sega Saturn. A fifth title World Heroes Pocket was announced for release on the Neo Geo Pocket, but was canceled.
The general premise is that a scientist, Dr. Brown, having perfected a time machine, organized a tournament for various fighters throughout all of history to combat each other. True to this plot, many of the fighters are based on actual historical figures, while some are fictional ones.
The series plays similar to many other fighting games, but instead of a 6-button layout, the original World Heroes uses only 3 of the standard 4 Neo-Geo buttons: one for punching, another for kicking, and the last for throwing. The former two buttons can be held down longer in order to deliver stronger attacks, similar to the first Street Fighter control scheme, with only two levels of strength and using standard buttons instead of pneumatic buttons. In the SNES version (and later games, starting with World Heroes 2 Jet), it is possible to assign the 4 basic attacks to different buttons. In World Heroes Perfect, each character had a traditional four-button attack layout, but could also achieve stronger attacks by pushing down two respective punch or kick buttons at the same time.
In World Heroes Perfect, every character has an ABC Special Move that can be activated by pressing the A, B, and C buttons at the same time. Moves vary by character, though they all require strategic use and are easy to activate, allowing for more tactical battles. For example, the character Fuuma's ABC Special allows him to fake a special move; J. Max's ABC Special allows him to catch, hold onto, and throw back projectiles; and Kim Dragon's ABC Special allows him to perform counters while blocking.
Aside from the normal tournament mode, there is also the popular "Death Match" mode (which was removed in World Heroes 2 Jet and World Heroes Perfect). In it, the arenas are filled with different kinds of traps that can change conditions in the bouts or even damage the characters (such as spiked walls, landmines, burning ropes, slick floors, etc.). The "Death Match" modes of the first two titles in the series may have been inspired by the growing popularity of deathmatch style professional wrestling in Japan at the time, mostly made famous by Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling.